Although the Tonawanda City School District doesn’t have a final estimate on revenues for the 2013-14 school year, the Board of Education may soon have to make tough decisions if its Tuesday night meeting with a budget advisory team is any indication.
The advisory team, comprised of community members and district union representatives, has listened to the district’s budget presentations over the past three months. While Tonawanda is allowed to raise its tax levy by 4.5 percent with a simple majority vote, the advisory team suggested the district keep a potential tax rate increase to about 2 to 3 percent – and maybe even cut nough spending to keep taxes the same as this year.
District employees and board members declined to offer their opinions on a preferred tax Tuesday.
Administrators presented three budget options to consider.
If the district kept a potential tax rate hike of 4.5 percent, it would still have to cut $840,000 from the tentative budget, which includes the elimination of two teachers at the middle school and one instructor at the high school, plus reductions in BOCES special education programs, staff development, facilities and building budgets.
A potential 3.2 percent tax levy increase would see a total of $981,752 in spending cuts, which includes similar reductions plus decreases to the enrichment program and instructional and special education budgets.
A 2 percent tax levy increase would force a total of $1.1 million in cuts, which includes the above reductions plus the elimination of one elementary school teacher.
Superintendent James Newton noted the district has cut administrators, teachers and staff members over the past four years, laying off 34 instructors since 2009.
While many budget advisory team members seemed to favor a smaller tax increase, if any, one member disagreed.
“I believe we can go higher than 2 percent to the public,” said advisory team member Thomas Balk. “(We have) to educate the public.”
The board must adopt a budget plan in April.
“I don’t want to raise taxes, but I have to look at it both ways,” said board member Jennifer Mysliwy. “If we want to bring families into (the city), we have to provide a good education. I can’t sit here year after year losing all these programs.”